Updated and corrected
James Jeffrey Bradstreet was one of the world’s most famous — or infamous — physicians. He believed vaccines caused autism. He even testified so before Congress. Twice.
But he didn’t just rail against Big Pharma. He also tried to beat it.
Bradstreet offered thousands of autism patients around the globe controversial treatments. He claimed he could effectively cure kids of their autism, cancer and other maladies simply by injecting them with protein shots.
When Bradstreet’s body was found last month in the Rocky Broad River in mountainous North Carolina with a bullet wound to the chest, therefore, friends, family members and patients pointed fingers at drug corporations. The FDA. Anyone but Bradstreet.
“He did not kill himself!” one patient’s parent wrote online.
“May God have vengeance quickly on the evil doers who murdered him!” wrote another.
Although the local sheriff said it was suicide, Bradstreet’s relatives quickly raised $33,000 online for “an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of foul play.” And on Tuesday, the family’s attorney announced that the money had been used to hire multiple private detectives who would investigate whether Bradstreet had, in fact, been murdered.
Since his death, however, the conspiracy theories have begun to crumble as evidence has emerged linking Bradstreet to a shadowy online industry in unapproved medicine.
Bradstreet’s Internet postings tie him to an unlicensed medical factory that was recently shut down for producing potentially contaminated vials of a supposed wonder “cure” called GcMAF.
The day before his death, Bradstreet’s own clinic was raided by federal and state authorities searching for the same untested and unapproved “cure.”
And on the very day of his death, Swiss media reported that a clinic linked to Bradstreet had also been raided after five patients receiving GcMAF died.
As this international medical gray market began to unravel, so, too, did Bradstreet’s life.
If any doubt remains about whether Bradstreet committed suicide, one thing is now abundantly clear: The controversial doctor’s questionable treatments had finally caught up with him.
A doctor’s ties to the online international gray market of unapproved drugs
Bradstreet was both beloved and belittled.
To his patients, he was a savior willing to try out treatments few others would touch. But to critics — including other doctors and autism advocates — he was a crackpot whose supposed cures could be more dangerous than the disorders themselves.
Despite scientific consensus to the contrary, Bradstreet believed vaccines could cause autism. And he recommended unorthodox and often unapproved autism treatments including hyperbaric oxygen chambers; hormone injections; stem cell therapy and chelation, a risky chemical procedure Bradstreet believed could remove the mercury supposedly introduced by vaccines.
But perhaps Bradstreet’s most controversial treatment was something called Globulin component Macrophage Activating Factor, or GcMAF. A protein that naturally occurs in healthy human blood, GcMAF can be removed, concentrated and injected into a sick patient.
During the past decade, a handful of doctors have claimed that GcMAF can cure anything from cancer to autism by boosting the human immune system.
Bradstreet was an avid believer. In posts on his blog — deleted but still cached online — he shared his GcMAF patients’ anecdotes. And in 2012, he gave a presentation in England in which he described giving GcMAF injections to 40 autistic patients ranging from 16 months to 21 years in age.
“It’s extremely potent in terms of its ability to work for children,” he announced. “Many from this [experiment] have gone on to basically lose the label of autism. They don’t have autistic distinctions any more after sometimes as little as 20 weeks of therapy.”
It was an incredible claim: a cure for one of the world’s most vexing disorders after just five months of injections.
During his speech, Bradstreet cited doctors studying GcMAF in Japan and Italy. He said that a paper on his experiment was being peer reviewed. And he name-dropped David Noakes, the head of Immuno Biotech, a company manufacturing GcMAF.
(He also announced a 25 percent discount on GcMAF for those in attendance.)
What he did not disclose, however, was that much of the research he cited had already been discredited and retracted; the journal considering Bradstreet’s paper was the scientific equivalent of self-publishing, and Bradstreet had close ties to Noakes and Immuno Biotech.
During the same U.K. trip, Bradstreet and Noakes made what was essentially a promotional video for Immuno Biotech and its brand of GcMAF, called First Immune.
“I’m here with Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet from the U.S.A., the autism expert in the First Immune GcMAF laboratories,” Noakes said on camera. “Dr. Bradstreet has been using our GcMAF for 18 months and we’d like to thank you for, I think you’ve treated 900 children now?”
“Not just children,” Bradstreet boasted. “So the spectrum of my patients with autism ranges from somewhere around 18 months to goodness, somewhere around close to 40. So we’ve treated many adults with autism as well as chronic fatigue patients, cancer patients. So we’ve found application for a fairly broad number of disorders for the product.”
The two traded compliments for four minutes straight.
“We have been astounded in the time you have been here just how much biomedical science you know,” Noakes told Bradstreet. “We have never met a doctor with such an understanding at the microbiological level of how autism and cancer and other diseases work, and we are absolutely delighted to have you with us. And we look forward to what we know are going to be further breakthroughs in autism in the future.”
Bradstreet responded by saying Noakes had “state of the art equipment.”
“I think you have a fabulous team of good scientists who are doing some incredible work here to produce the highest quality of both effective activity as well as purity and sterility of product,” the doctor said. “It’s something I’ve been able to rely on now for close to two years. And it’s really wonderful to be able to a part of it.”
Then he made a pitch for why GcMAF was the perfect autism treatment.
“The wonderful thing about your product is that it’s really not me treating you,” he said. “It’s not like you come to my office and I have to dose you up with this medicine because this is something that parents can do in their home.
“It’s accessible to anybody around the world. Through your Internet sites you’ve made it available very broadly. We’ve used it in South Africa, China, India, Eastern Europe, South America and all over. So that’s been a wonderful experience to see parents have access to a therapy.
“… We are seeing some extraordinary results.”
For desperate parents: Google, order and inject
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is clear: GcMAF is not a recognized treatment for autism.
“GcMAF treatments are considered investigational, and none are approved or licensed for use by the FDA in the U.S.,” the agency said in a statement sent to The Washington Post.
Nearly all doctors agree.
“Given there is no evidence that modulating the immune system would have any benefit for children with autism spectrum disorder – especially given ASD’s genetic or epigenetic basis – I am not sure why Dr. Bradstreet would want to use this for ASD,” Peter Jay Hotez, dean of Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine, told The Post in an e-mail.
It’s not even clear if GcMAF injections are safe. An initial “safety study” — the first of its kind — is still trying to recruit participants.
So why are thousands of people around the world ordering it online and injecting their kids with it?
Part of the answer lies in Bradstreet and Noakes’s incredible promises.
“Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet has now treated over 2,000 autistic children with GcMAF and the results are well established,” according to one of Noakes’s Web sites. “85% improve, if only a little, and of them 15% have their autism eradicated. In all 3,000 children have been treated with GcMAF with similar results.”
Internet chatrooms reveal how desperate parents were drawn to these promises like moths to a flame.
The discussion forum on Autism Web shows hundreds of parents of autistic children seeking out alternative methods of treating, or even “curing,” their kids.
“We are doing GcMAF injections through Bradstreet,” began one thread in August of 2011. “It has been 5 weeks. Each shot is $90 so I’m hoping we will see something big soon. I would love to hear from anyone else that has been doing the treatment for longer than us.”
Dozens responded. The replies varied from wary to ecstatic.
“I’ve been reading about GcMAF on other boards but hadn’t realized that this treatment was already available,” one person wrote. “Have you seen any benefits/negatives yet?”
“I am skeptical about it as it is a pretty new treatment,” wrote another. “Have there been any long-term follow up patients who used it? … Is it okay to start it? What areas have improved in your kid? What is the source of the GcMAF? Is it human?”
A few had concerns specifically about Bradstreet.
“Dr. Bradstreet is going to Kiev, Ukraine?” one person wrote in response to a blog by Bradstreet promoting a trip to see “experienced experts” in the Eastern European country. “The clinic there looks like it should be in a horror movie, I would never go there!!!”
But if a few parents worried about exposing their kids to GcMAF, many more jumped at the opportunity to try out the supposedly wondrous protein on their struggling children.
Some seemed well aware that GcMAF was not an approved medicine.
“Getting homeopathic practitioner to put her name to the request for the test £20 (don’t think GP [general practitioner] would do this,” one wrote.
“I did go to my GP today and she had no idea what [the GcMAF test] was, but said they wouldn’t do it,” another wrote. “So looks like I now need to find someone just to help me get the test done, very frustrating.”
“Have you considered trying to get your child in to see Dr. Bradstreet?” someone suggested.
Many commenters credited Bradstreet and his First Immune GcMAF injections with perceived improvements in their kids’ health. They ranged from “small positives” to allegedly major breakthroughs.
“I was crying tears of joy last night as we put him to bed because he was talking more than ever before,” one wrote.
“Oooh! Autism schmautism!!!” a Bradstreet customer in South Africa victoriously announced after supposedly seeing their child’s symptoms melt away.
In contrast, however, several commenters described giving their kids months of expensive shots only to end up disillusioned with both Bradstreet and GcMAF.
“We have completed 20 shots of GcMAF so far. I am still waiting for the wow that everyone talks about,” one person wrote. Even worse, they described side effects including “crying and pains in his chest and stomach at least for first 3 days after the shot.”
“We are doing GcMAF injections. I have not seen any gains at all,” another person wrote. “I have seen the worse behaviors and tantrums. So after spending $1,300 for no gains and living in hell I am done with this.”
Others described nasty viral or bacterial infections which flared up after starting their kids on GcMAF.
“It came to a point where we couldn’t tolerate it any more,” an angry parent wrote.
Hotez, who has a child with autism, told The Post that because autism doesn’t have a known cure, many parents are driven to extremes to help their kids.
“If you Google something on the Web, you can get a quick and easy fix,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s what a lot of parents do, and there is a lot of garbage on the Internet.”
In the case of GcMAF, that garbage would ultimately prove dangerous for both patients and provider.
Five deaths, three raids and a suicide
Fiona O’Leary is a far cry from a fearsome detective. She is a thin, pale Irish woman with dyed crimson hair and Asperger’s.
But she also has two sons with autism.
So like Bradstreet’s patients, O’Leary began scouring the Internet for ways to help her kids. Instead, she found GcMAF, which she calls a “dangerous and unethical scam.”
“GcMAF is another dangerous unauthorized, unproven and very expensive treatment being used in the Autism field,” O’Leary told The Post in an e-mail. She is the founder of Autistic Rights Together, an organization that exposes bogus autism magic bullets. “Those offering this treatment are untrained and not medical Doctors,” she said of GcMAF. (Bradstreet, it should be noted, was licensed to practice medicine in Georgia at the time of his death.)
O’Leary began investigating Bradstreet, Noakes, Immuno Biotech and their GcMAF solution, First Immune, in 2014. She began with First Immune’s headquarters in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.
Her complaints led regulators on the island to raise concerns in December with the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the United Kingdom’s version of the FDA.
In early February of this year, the MHRA launched a raid of the First Immune GcMAF production facility near Cambridge — the same lab where Bradstreet had obtained his injections and had filmed promotional videos.
But where Bradstreet had seen a “sterile” and “state of the art” laboratory, the British government saw a nightmare.
MHRA investigators announced that they were shutting down the “unregistered” and “unlicensed” pharmacy after finding that the GcMAF was being made with blood plasma labeled “Not to be administered to humans or used in any drug products.”
“The production site does not meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and there are concerns over the sterility of the medicine being produced and the equipment being used,” MHRA said in a statement. “There are concerns that the product may be contaminated.”
“These products may pose a significant risk to people’s health. Not only were the manufacturing conditions unacceptable but the originating material was not suitable for human use,” said MHRA Director of Inspection Gerald Heddell. “GcMAF products labelled as ‘First Immune’ are not licensed medicines and have not been tested for quality, safety or effectiveness. People should not start treatment with these specific products. It is important that patients currently taking these products seek their doctor’s advice as soon as possible.
“The advice is, do not buy medicines online from an unregistered pharmacy as you don’t know what you are getting, where it came from or if it’s safe to take,” he said.
But the GcMAF saga didn’t end there. O’Leary was hounding American officials as well. After spotting Bradstreet’s videos and blog posts mentioning his connections to Noakes and First Immune, O’Leary complained to the FDA about the American doctor.
Four months after First Immune was shut down, the feds came knocking on Bradstreet’s Buford, Ga., clinic.
A search warrant dated June 16 and obtained by The Washington Post shows that authorities were explicitly looking for GcMAF, as well as other “misbranded drugs.”
The raid took place on June 18, the day before Bradstreet died, Noakes told The Post in a phone interview. Agents from the FDA and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency confiscated vials of GcMAF, medical records, lists of clients and associated companies, computers and financial records, according to the search warrant.
Had he been indicted, Bradstreet would have faced up to 20 years in prison, according to Forbes, which first obtained the search warrant.
The doctor left town. He packed his suitcases and drove three hours northeast across state lines to North Carolina.
But as he checked into a hotel near Lake Lure, N.C., the next day, more bad news was breaking for Bradstreet.
In Switzerland, three newspapers reported that very morning that a First Immune clinic run by Noakes had been shut down. Five patients being treated with GcMAF had died, the papers reported. Some had been spending up to 6,000 euros (about $6,500) a week for their treatment.
“Private clinic under criminal investigation after five deaths,” ran the headline in newspaper 24 Heures.
“We have reported the deaths of patients treated at the University Hospital in Bussigny,” said Darcy Christen, a spokesman for the local hospital. “We did it after discovering a body of consistent evidence that show questionable practices.”
“We found these situations serious enough to try to understand what was happening in Bussigny because the First Immune clinic is not officially registered in Switzerland,” said Karim Boubaker, a local government health official. “For us, it therefore does not exist and we were not sure what was happening. In addition, GcMAF is not allowed in Switzerland.”
Calling the clinic “an illegal practice of medicine,” Swiss officials launched an investigation into First Immune. (It’s still unclear if the deaths had anything to do with GcMAF or if the injections simply failed to help terminal patients.)
It’s impossible to know how the bad news affected Bradstreet, but it definitely came just hours before his death. When he arrived to his hotel in North Carolina on June 19, the room wasn’t ready, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Instead of waiting, he left — never to return.
Bradstreet’s body was found by a fisherman that afternoon. The gun that was used to kill him was found nearby in the water, according to authorities.
The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office wasted no time in ruling the death a suicide.
“Everything is what it appears to be,” Lt. Jamie Keever, the lead detective on the case, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.”
Authorities are still waiting on an autopsy but the forensics and circumstantial evidence both suggest suicide. After all: The feds were onto him. His GcMAF supplier had been shut down. The wonder “cure” had been linked to five deaths in lurid headlines. Bradstreet’s life and profession were falling apart.
The shadowy international trade in unapproved medicine that had provided Bradstreet with so much business was finally coming to light.
But Bradstreet’s friends, family and patients have refused to believe the doctor killed himself. None is more skeptical that David Noakes.
“I know it was murder,” the Immuno Biotech CEO said. “Dr. Bradstreet stated what we all know: that the MMR vaccine causes autism,” repeating a claim often wielded by anti-vaccine activists that’s been totally debunked. “And he was an expert witness in many court cases in the U.S.A. providing testimony to that effect. MMR is a multibillion dollar vaccine and this [GcMFA] hurts the profits of the MMR drug companies and that is why he was killed.”
In a half-hour phone interview, Noakes told The Post that he was convinced a vaccine company killed Bradstreet to protect its profits from the wonder “cure” that is GcMFA.
“He was raided by the FDA the day before his murder so the murder is now dressed up to look like suicide,” Noakes claimed.
“Why would a doctor use a gun?” he continued. “A doctor wouldn’t use a gun at all. He’d use barbiturates or a cocktail of drugs which are easily available to him and take no effort.”
Noakes went on to defend his friend, who he admitted he had supplied with GcMAF.
“Before he was killed, he was recovering 60 percent of autistic children using GcMAF,” Noakes said of Bradstreet. “That is the highest recovery rate in autism in the world by far.”
Noakes went on to claim that both the MHRA and FDA were in cahoots with vaccine companies to bury GcMAF and the men providing it. He accused MHRA of “absurd lies,” “pure fraud” and “corruption” in shutting down his U.K. facility.
As to the patients who died at the University Hospital in Bussigny, Noakes said that the media had buried the real story: the clinic’s success.
“We had 76 terminal stage four cancer patients,” he said. “We saved 70 percent of them. They went home improving. The other 30 percent of them died but all 100 percent of them were expected to die.”
“They were prosecuting us for manslaughter to start out off with. They have now given that up because they realized how ridiculous that is in a terminal stage four cancer clinic,” he said, adding that his clinic was instead currently facing fraud charges.
Noakes admitted to using substances “not to be administered to humans” in his GcMAF but insisted that was common practice and that his product was safe and sterile. He also boasted to sending his vials to 9,000 patients in 80 nations.
Ensuring that his company’s medicines abide by international law wasn’t his concern, he said. “If the regulators have so much time on their hands, let them do it,” he said smugly.
“We are residents in Guernsey. We only have to follow Guernsey law,” he added. “We can’t possibly be expected to know the law in every country. It’s up to the person who is purchasing it.”
“So I don’t think it’s us you need to be pointing fingers at,” he concluded. “It’s utterly corrupt regulators you need to be pointing at.”
Outlining a vast, global conspiracy to suppress GcMAF and discredit or even kill its proponents, Noakes said Bradstreet had paid for his beliefs with his life.
“He was an extremely confident man despite 10 years of threats,” he said. “Dr. Bradstreet was never embarrassed. He never had any doubts.”
Correction: The original version of this story quoted David Noakes admitting that a rash of GcMAF patients had died at his Swiss clinic. In fact, the patients died in another hospital, not at his clinic but after being treated at the clinic.
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